Obama: NASA and Nobels

Contributed by
Sep 27, 2008

Two bits of Barack Obama science-related news:

1) 61 Nobel Laureates have officially endorsed Obama for President. That's more than have ever endorsed a candidate before. I don't know if it's Obama's pro-science stance or the fact that McCain's VP pick is so antiscience, wanting to teach creationism in the classroom and denying human-induced global warming (even when McCain admits as much). Either way, it's remarkable.

2) Obama took a pretty harsh shot at the Bush Administration's handling of NASA.

This Administration's lack of leadership for our nation's space program has left Americans without access to space or the ability to support its astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) without paying Russia for transportation. The ISS is a world-class research facility, built with approximately $100 billion of U.S. taxpayers' money. With the planned retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2010, the U.S. will be paying Russia for rides to and from the ISS, and for emergency lifeboat services, using their Soyuz spacecraft. Furthermore, at the end of 2011, NASA will no longer even have the legal authority to continue paying Russia for Soyuz flights, so unless we act immediately, the U.S. will abandon its role in supporting, and benefiting from, missions to this amazing facility, leaving it to our international partners.

I would say the ISS is potentially a world-class facility; right now it isn't. But the rest is pretty accurate, and appears to support the leaked email by NASA admin Mike Griffin recently, too.

Obama goes on to give Congress some pretty concrete advice on what to do. One of them bugs me:

Demand that NASA take no further action that would make it more difficult or expensive to fly the Shuttle beyond 2010.

I don't think that's possible without delaying Constellation, the replacement for the Shuttle. We don't have infinite money, resources, and engineers to do that. The two are tied together, so what affects one affects the other.

With the way the economy is going, it's hard to say what will happen here. We're still hemorrhaging money into Iraq and Afghanistan, remember, so I can't see how we get out of this without some bad news down the road.

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